In some cases, children with autism may find that using technology or visual-aided communication is a more effective method of communication than verbal expression. Speech-language pathologists call this Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). 

Everyone uses some form of AAC in their day-to-day speech, like smiling, frowning, waving, pointing, giving a thumbs up, or using other gestures to convey a message, feeling, or thought.


There are generally two categories of AAC:
non-aided and aided.

  • Non-aided AAC includes communication methods that can be done using the human body, like waving, pointing, and American Sign Language (ASL).

  • Aided AAC includes additional tools to facilitate communication and has two subcategories: electronic and paper-based.

Electronic AAC uses assistive technology like speech apps, iPads, or similar devices. Paper-based AAC includes cards, books, pictures, or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS is a way for people with autism to communicate without speech by using cards with pictures and symbols to explain themselves.

A speech-language pathologist will work with the child and caregivers to determine if AAC is appropriate and which kind of AAC is likely to be most effective and teach them how to use it.

Learn more about AAC use in speech therapy and at home.

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